By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on June 1, 2019
DWINDLING interest in the Albany Friends of the Leukaemia Foundation group has coordinator Gayle Harman worried that people affected by blood cancer are not aware of the support available to them.
Ms Harman started the group in 2012 after she participated in Neil’s Walk, a fundraising walk from Perth to Albany she completed with family and friends in honour of her late brother Neil Stephens.
Mr Stephens died aged 46 after a 16-month battle with T cell prolymphocytic leukaemia and Ms Harman wanted to do something to honour his memory.
Since the creation of the Albany Friends of the Leukaemia Foundation group, approximately $150,000 has been raised.
Ms Harman said all the money raised by the group goes directly to Perth accommodation for country blood cancer sufferers and their families to stay in, to alleviate the financial strain of travelling for treatment.
She is concerned that a decline in fundraiser volunteers will affect the group’s ability to fund this accommodation, and a decline in group interest will affect the group’s future.
“I think people don’t know we’re here,” she said.
“But we can offer companionship and someone to talk to, as we’ve all been affected by blood cancer in some way.
“People need to know that they are not alone.”
Sausage sizzles, golf days and the annual Light the Night event at Emu Point are some of the fundraisers the group does.
Ms Harman said any amount of time people can give to the group is precious.
“If you can only spare a couple of hours, or an hour, or five hours, anything is great,” she said.
“Being a part of something feels good and you don’t have to have a connection to someone with blood cancer to help out.”
Fellow group member Nevanne Castellaro reflected on the importance of supporting cancer sufferers living far away from treatment they require.
“This is country money going to country people,” she said of the group’s fundraising efforts.
“It’s very important to keep it going.”
Ms Harman understood why older generations of people may no longer require the companionship offered by the group but was unsure why younger generations did not seek help.
She hoped this message would remind people that help is always there.
“I understand that people’s lives have moved on,” Ms Harman said. “They’ve received the companionship and help they needed, and
they’ve moved on.
“But I hope people continue to remember that we are here for them and there’s no pressure to be part of the group; not everyone comes to every meeting or fundraiser, but they are connected to us with newsletters and being part of the group.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the Albany branch of Friends of the Leukaemia Foundation, about volunteering or about joining is encouraged to contact Ms Harman on 0408 094 817.